If there is one distinguishing feature of Telugu cinema, it is the amount of emphasis we put on comedy. Unlike other industries, where comedians are relegated to the sidelines, Telugu cinema has adored and loved its comedic stars, and they often get louder cheers than the hero himself.
From the times of Jandyala and Vamsy, the comedy track has continued to be at the fulcrum of the narrative. And it looks like the trend is here to stay.
The only thing which has gone overboard in the recent times is ‘slapping’. In the beginning, it was a quirky bit that was added as a slapstick element. It was funny – MS Narayana is drunk, and the hero comes, and a dialogue ensues, resulting in a tight, resounding slap.
But gradually, it was overdone. Today, in nearly every film, there’ll be a scene of the comedian getting slapped. A few scenes would need it, probably. But slapping at the drop of a hat unnecessarily is like slapping the intelligence of the audience.
Senior comedians like Brahmanandam and Ali have a huge body of work, having worked for decades in a wide vista of roles. They are legends, they can make you laugh and have been doing this since decades. It is sometimes uncomfortable to watch them getting slapped, just for some cheap laughs. You almost feel like telling the director, ‘Dude, he’s capable of much more. Why don’t you write a funny line, instead?’ These slaps demean the script and their scope to act – restricting them to react to unnecessary slaps from guys, who weren’t even born when these actors started their careers.
After over a decade of it, I wonder why these slaps are still woven into the script! It is probably that when a comedian is roped in, his pay scale is divided into two. One is for the role, and the other for the number of slaps. Or if the comedian is demanding too much as remuneration, the producer would negotiate with the director and take revenge in the form of getting him slapped? I don’t know.
Comedy doesn’t mean slapping blindly and meaninglessly. Removing one slap and instead getting some witty or sensible writing into the script may cost nothing, but will definitely reap a lot in terms of respect and adulation.
Wish someone slapped some sense into the writers!